Blumenfeld was born in Berlin in 1897, and as a young man he moved to Amsterdam. It was there, while keeping a leather goods shop, that he began to experiment with photography and became involved with the Dada movement. He would use the shop’s storeroom as his darkroom, and would display his photographs in the windows. Success in the leather business eluded him, but his confidence with photography grew, and when he relocated to Paris in 1936, he set out on the career that was to make him famous. While initially the fashion magazines were reluctant to employ him, the more avant-garde publications like Photographie regularly featured his work.

Finally, with the crucial support of the British photographer Cecil Beaton, who was closely affiliated with Condé Nast, Blumenfeld was awarded a contract with Vogue in 1938. In the summer of 1941, just after his release from an internment camp during the German occupation of France, Blumenfeld and his family emigrated to New York. By the 1950’s he was the most accomplished and highest paid fashion photographer in the world.